National Magazine of the Lutheran Church of Australia

Held safely

November 2018

General Convention worship texts and themes followed the journey of the Israelites, as recorded in the book of Exodus. With every step of faith they took away from slavery in Egypt towards freedom and future – through good times and bad – they were held safely in the hands of God. As are we.

… by God’s living word

The sermons of each day’s worship at Synod were based on a text from Exodus and preached by one of our bishops. You can read transcripts of the daily sermons on the Worship page of the Synod website here.Preaching on Exodus 3:8a at the opening service of General Convention, LCA Bishop John Henderson encouraged those gathered to ‘be ready to listen for God, and maybe to be surprised’. The opening and closing services were live-streamed. You can watch them here.

… we journey together in faith

South Australia–Northern Territory District Bishop David Altus preached on Exodus 13:17–22 – in which God leads the Israelites around the desert – as a metaphor for our own faith journey as church. Bishop Altus said: ‘It’s not about who we are and where we are going at all. It’s about who God is and where God is going. So we go into the unknown today with the God we do know: … who is always with us and one step ahead of us at the same time; … and who calls us to get in behind him and where he is going!’

… fed by prayer and his supper

Every day began with a holy communion service for those gathered as Synod. The Lord’s supper was served from an altar crafted in the dimensions of the altar in the tabernacle which journeyed with the Israelites. Prayer was integral, too, not just in worship, but also throughout the business sessions of General Convention. In his sermon, based on Exodus 12:13 about the Passover Lamb, Queensland District Bishop Paul Smith urged the congregation to pray the ‘Lamb of God’ prayer ‘not just on Sunday but especially throughout Synod, to pray it every day – and throughout the day’. He said this prayer ‘is not just about me – we don’t say, “Lamb of God have mercy on me” – it is “Have mercy on us”. This is a prayer that we pray for the church and the world – for each sister and brother beside you and around you.’

… washed clean by water

Entering the worship space, delegates, visitors, volunteers and staff walked between desert ‘rocks’ and rippling deep-blue velvet walls of ‘water’ – as a reminder of the Israelites crossing of the Red Sea – and could then dip their fingers in the water of the font as a reminder of the gifts of eternal life and faith received through baptism. In his sermon on the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14), New Zealand District Bishop Mark Whitfield told Synod that ‘we are water people’.

‘Whether we were part of that earliest of European exodus migrations to our nations in the 1800s … or whether we’re relatively recent arrivals … we’ve crossed water to be here’, he said, sprinkling water from a fern frond and encouraging delegates to daily ‘remember and be embraced by the grace and promise of our baptism’.

… in freedom won on the cross

As a reminder of the amazing undeserved love of God for his people, the cross was central to, and the focus of, every worship service at Synod. Preaching on Exodus 19:1–6, Victoria–Tasmania District Bishop Lester Priebbenow spoke of God’s great rescue of a disobedient Israel, reflected in Jesus’ death for us on the cross: ‘God seeks to draw us back to himself, saying, “Remember what I’ve done for you in Christ! Remember who you are and whose you are in Christ!”.’

… to praise and honour God

Once again delegates and visitors said worship was a highlight of Convention. Music styles and liturgies varied from day to day. Bands, a cantor, organists including Bishop Mark Whitfield, and the choir from Sydney’s Gereja Kristen Indonesia di Australia of Concordia Lutheran Church, were among those adding diversity and richness to the songs and hymns featured in the services.

… who leads us to future glory

Preaching on Exodus 29:45 in the closing service at Synod, Bishop John Henderson said that ‘there is still uncharted territory to cross’ for us as we journey towards God’s promised land. ‘God gives us the overall direction, but not necessarily a map of all the details. We have God’s Word as our guide’, he said. ‘By faith we will be able to do what we need to do … As we take the next steps, let’s be patient with God and kind to one another.’